Could Singapore’s ‘Flights to Nowhere’ Get the Travel Industry Moving Again?

Singapore Airlines is thinking of a new way to save jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic
Singapore Airlines is thinking of a new way to save jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic | © Steve Worner / Alamy Stock Photo
Singapore Airlines is planning no-destination flights by the end of October to give its business a boost and get passengers back in the air. Could this approach actually work, or will travellers still be reluctant to get on planes after months at home?

Local media in Singapore are reporting that the national airline is looking at so-called “flights to nowhere” – which will take off and land at the same airport – to instigate a return to some sense of normality. The flights will be restricted to domestic travellers and should be ready to go by the end of October.

Singapore Airlines may start to offer no-destination flights © Aviation Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Singapore has been proactive in dealing with coronavirus and has introduced virtual credits in the form of tourism vouchers, a stimulus package worth about $320m. The vouchers can be used in a variety of places, and Singapore Airlines is in talks with the national tourism board to see if it will allow Singaporeans to use the scheme to fund part of their flights.

Other countries have also looked to utilise grounded aircraft and crew to encourage people to not forget about the joys of flying. In Taiwan, at the start of the pandemic, virtual experiences were being offered, which allowed locals to board fake flights that didn’t even get off the runway. At least this latest plan will get people back in the air, even if they aren’t going anywhere.

You can pretend to ‘take off’ from Songshan Airport in Taipei © Walid Berrazeg / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Smaller airlines in Japan and Taiwan have also trialled domestic flights to nowhere, and seen good pick-up from customers. This new proposal will be the largest roll-out of such a scheme, and early signs are that people are willing to pay for the privilege of getting on no-destination flights.

The flights to and from Singapore Changi Airport will last three hours. They won’t be the first to take such a circular route either, as the airline operated a similar operation in 2015 for charity.

Singapore Airlines’ flights to nowhere will depart from Singapore Changi Airport © Asia File / Alamy Stock Photo

There are concerns about the environmental impact of such flights and if this is a novelty that will soon lose its lustre. The appetite for travelling again is high, but there is a reluctance to book flights abroad with the rapidly fluctuating quarantine and lockdown rules from country to country. Demand in the UK, for example, changes every time a new country is put on the enforced quarantine list with little notice.

At least these flights to nowhere will be immune from such restrictions, even if they aren’t taking you away from it all.